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Status, shortcomings of Forest Certification and Green Building Programs explored at Midwest Section meeting.

Some 50 people attended a program in mid-December titled "Forest Certification & Green Building Programs--Great Opportunities or Great Big Headaches?," sponsored by the Forest Product Society's Midwest Section in cooperation with Dovetail Partners Inc. Held at the USDA Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, the day-long program included four presenters from Dovetail Partners, who provided a look at the history and current state of programs for certifying sustainable forests and environment-friendly building designs and materials.

Dovetail Chairman Jeff Howe, Ph.D., set the stage by explaining that Dovetail Partners seeks to promote sustainable forests in communities that rely on them. Noting that considerable data on green building has been in use for more than 40 years, he explained that certification is the new concept, made especially important by the recent growth of international trade in wood products and other building materials.

Presenting the background for forest certification efforts, Kathryn Fernholz, Dovetail's executive director, explained that the complex nature of forests results in people valuing different things, whether clean water, wildlife habitat, hunting, recreation or timber. The interrelationships of those characteristics result in conflict, which led to the concept of sustainability, encompassing environmentally responsible, socially acceptable and economically viable. Forest-certification programs examine forest management, rather than the forest itself. If the forest-management planning, record-keeping and implementation are designed to ensure the forest is sustainable, lumber from that forest can be labeled that it is from a certified sustainable forest.

Worldwide, forest certification has grown from about 10 million hectares in 1996 to nearly 275 million in 2006. One of the largest standard-setting bodies is the Forest Stewardship Council, which has certified 195 million acres in 74 countries. Other major standard-setting bodies are the American Tree Farm System, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, the Canadian Standards Association, ISO, and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC), which operates mostly in Europe, Canada and Brazil. Accrediting bodies, which provide or supervise the auditors, include Scientific Certification Systems, SmartWood and BVQI.

Turning to green buildings, Dovetail's Alison Lindburg described the U.S. Green Building Council's establishment of the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program of building standards. The LEED certification system incorporates standards for several aspects of building design and construction, such as indoor environmental quality, site, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and innovation and design process. There is evidence, according to Lindburg, that a well-designed building with integrated design and construction reduces initial and operating costs and improves the performance of the occupants. Lindburg noted that interest in LEED standards tends to be highest among government and nonprofit organizations.

Dr. Jim Bowyer, director of Dovetail's Responsible Materials program (and a former president (199394) of the Forest Products Society), then looked at several green building certification programs. The LEED program and Green Globes, a program established by the forest products industry, are both international. There also are influential local programs in Austin, Texas; Seattle; California; Colorado; and Wisconsin.

In all of the programs, the choice of materials represents only a small part of the total assessment score. And Bowyer pointed out, "materials designated as 'green' under LEED are not necessarily better than non-designated materials; some in fact are demonstrably worse." For example, some programs promote the use of steel or bamboo, both of which can entail significant environmental issues. Most programs, except for Green Globes, favor materials other than wood. Bowyer noted that wood is the only building material subjected to restrictions as to source or environmental impact under most of the standards programs.

Only Green Globes uses life-cycle analysis to determine a material's total impact on the environment and global warming.

Other topics discussed included the marketing implications for manufacturers of wood products and the requirements and responsibilities tied to chain of custody issues to ensure the accuracy of certification labels.

Workshop presentations are available on the Web at: DecemberWorkshopAgenda.html.
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Title Annotation:BULLETIN BOARD
Publication:Forest Products Journal
Article Type:Conference notes
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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